Beginning to End, Beyoncé's NRG Stadium Homecoming Is a Triumph
Photos courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Beyoncé, DJ Khaled
May 7, 2016
Hours after the slaying, the wig snatching, the fitted snatching, the life getting, the boy bye's and various curses of shock, amazement and confusion, I stood with a perplexed look on my face. How? How does Beyoncé do this? On this level? With this magnitude? And why exactly was I utterly exhausted from all of it?
Saturday night, Beyoncé came home. Home to Parkwood, home to the original BeyHive, home to Texas, home to Houston. Her foundation. Girlz Tyme, Destiny's Child, home videos running with Solange in the park and standing in her mirror at 15, proudly foretelling of her future. She was Beyoncé Giselle Knowles then, long braids and spunk. She's Beyoncé now, a one-word-means-everything global entity who keeps raising her own bar.
The Formation World Tour design is far more gaudy than Mrs. Carter. Whereas the 2013 show involved LED boards that promoted her ascent to a proverbial throne and tons of smoke, Formation leads with a 40-foot LED board with doors and rotating mirrors that open for certain songs, an island platform in the middle and conveyer belts that connect the main stage to the runaway to the island. It's spectacular in design and when all the elements come together, from earth, wind and fire? Full-on revival.
Whatever notions fans had walking in to NRG Stadium on Saturday, they went in blind. In February, the single "Formation" told us this was going to be a black, defiant, "stand-for-something-or-fall-for-anything" show. Last month, Lemonade told us something completely different. This show avoided all spoilers from the Miami opener, the Atlanta show last Sunday, even the one in the rain. Thanks to being on the floor, there was no way to tell the outside world what was going on real-time. Through divine intervention maybe, Beyoncé had her Prince moment - the "enjoy the show and focus on all aspects of it" moment.
The homages spliced into Beyoncé classics (which date back about 20 years now, if you remember that "No, No, No" is now old enough to graduate high school) were added touches. Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" contorted into "Hold Up" from Lemonade. The roller-skate bounce of "Blow" found time to fit in a Rick James "Give It to Me Baby" lapse as well as juke into Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl." She even one-upped Jay Z's use of The Doors's "Five To One" ("Takeover") for "Ring The Alarm." Beyoncé and her all-girl band even gave the crowd five minutes to cool down and be taken to erotic gospel church with Prince's "Purple Rain," her 40-foot LED screen turning people and the crowd all lifting their phones up begging for God to bring Prince back.
This was a show, in the literal sense. Whatever I noticed three years ago when I endured my BeyHive probate at the Superdome in New Orleans, this dwarfed even that. How does Beyoncé keep doing this?
When you're on the outside looking at Beyoncé standom, you don't truly get it until it's in your face. With men decked out in their best "Single Ladies" outfits, sheer shirts and homemade "Fuck You Becky" tank tops with lemons for added sartorial effect. With women mixing Saturday night freakum dresses and Sunday morning service. Ivy Park shirts, old concert T-shirts, it doesn't matter. Beyoncé brings out every bit of stan, gay or straight.
First-time Beyoncé concertgoers jump with excitement. They plot for months, stating they could die happy just as long as they see this one show. They squeal and jump and try to contain their excitement when they realize how close their seats are. They know the words and notice how Beyoncé includes her fans as part of the show. They want in on it. Not because of potential fame, but rather connection. A Beyoncé song/moment/dance has probably gotten them through something in life. She radiates happiness and joy for girls all over.
When you see fan reaction videos to "Lemonade" hit the LED screen, you wave and let your hands dance in the air. Because your moment could come, too. Yes, Beyoncé does this to people, and you fully understand why when it's all said and done.
Then you ask, how the hell are my edges still here? Or did they leave as soon as "Formation" started?
DJ Khaled lathered the crowd up with club hits from Jay Z to Future to Drake. He was a maestro, offering sage advice about winning and avoiding "they" while letting "Still Tippin" blare out to a swollen audience. When Slim Thug and Paul Wall both show up for a performance of their 2004 hit, the crowd immediately throw their H's up as if they won a major battle or something. Khaled makes you feel like you're at home, just a far more grandiose version of it.
But Saturday night was about Beyoncé. It was about home movies with an infant Blue Ivy being cradled in Jay Z's arms and the crowd audibly fawning over it. No matter what the rumor was or the infidelity or storyline driven for the purpose of sales, Houston at least wants the Carter dynasty to survive anything and everything. Even a fire-breathing concert where Beyoncé uses "Sorry" as a middle finger for every bit of hurt you or she has ever received.
On the LED pillar, she licked razor blades as Warsan Shire's poetry blared on the PA, "ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks." She appeared nude, as if peeling back layers through orchids wasn't enough of a reminder of how stunningly beautiful she is. She's come to understand her grace and beauty, even her roots more than ever as I saw her father, Mathew, smiling and tapping his feet to "Daddy's Lessons." He, a proud father of arguably the most powerful woman in music, couldn't help but be in the moment even as the rest of the world wanted to blame (or thank?) him for inspiring this.
The costume changes fit standard Beyoncé affair; red leather for the seductive crawl of the "50 Shades" version of "Crazy In Love" before the bombastic original kicks in; angelic white for show closer "Halo" and the baptism through water that is "Freedom." It's undertaker black for "Formation," glittery gold for "Party" and then some. Black Panther patches, fists thrown in the air, dances, kicks and splashes in the makeshift river, it all means something. Water has taken on a whole new element with Beyoncé, especially after "Lemonade," where it personified purification after hell.
For two hours plus, Beyoncé took fans through 18 years of her life, from the early aspirations in girl groups to the solo pop hits to now, where every note and move means something bigger. She flipped a very candid freestyle and gave Houston a little Destiny's Child, a little Dangerously In Love (including every straight male's favorite Beyoncé song, "Me, Myself & I"), B'Day, 4, Beyoncé and Lemonade. Fans learned the lyrics to an album that was just released two weeks ago as if it were notes for the most important final exam of their life. Why? Because they want to slay again, until they can't slay anymore.
When it was over, after Beyoncé told us that "God was within us" and that she loved being and representing Houston, she ended with the most fitting statement of all, "Now I'm about to get some good ol' food."
Because she's forever Houston, Miss Third Ward, to be exact.
Run the World (Girls)
Me, Myself & I
Pray You Catch Me
Don't Hurt Yourself
Ring the Alarm
Independent Woman Pt. 1
Drunk In Love (Proper)
Purple Rain (Prince cover)
Crazy In Love (50 Shades of Grey version)
Crazy In Love (original)
Blow (w/Rick James & Vanity 6 interludes)
End of Time
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